Obituary: The Rev P. Hugh R. Mackay

Patrick Hugh Robson Mackay, minister of the church: born Tranent 23 January 1901; Minister of Torphichen 1927-59, Prenmay and Leslie 1960-72; MBE 1958; married 1960 Jean Thom; died North Berwick 11 January 1994.

IN THE 12TH century, the area of the Bathgate Hills, now West Lothian County Council's successful country park, was the ancestral domain of that branch of the Aitken clan that was to produce Lord Beaverbrook, and was considered a spiritual slum. Even today, it is dominated by the five hillocks that we all call the Devil's Knuckles; and over a local precipice were thrown wretched women brutally executed for alleged witchcraft. So the Order of Knights Templars came evangelising to the village of Torphichen and constructed their quahair, or fortified church. It was some 700 years later to this parish and this ancient but rather dilapidated house of god that P. Hugh R. Mackay was inducted in 1927, and which he was to serve as minister for 32 highly productive years.

He caused the quahair to be repaired physically and served God in many ways as energetically as the most demanding of Knights Templars would have wished, inspiring his congregation. In 1947 it was Mackay who restarted the Ancient Order of St John, with the Duke of Gloucester as Grand Prior, and turned it in to the philanthropical society which helps well-deserving causes particularly the physically handicapped. One of my memories of Hugh Mackay is his wonderful sermons at the annual gathering on 24 June each year at Torphichen of the present-day Knights, who were mostly businessmen able to help those less fortunate than themselves. In 1987 he was invested with the insignia of office as a Sub-Prelate of the order.

Born in 1901 in Tranent, one of the three sons and three daughters of the minister at Prestonpans, Hugh Mackay attended George Watson's School in Edinburgh during the First World War. It was here that he heard that both his elder brothers, Ian and Mark, who were training for the ministry, had been killed within weeks of each other at the Somme, Ian dying immediately and Mark of wounds, in 1917. To the enormous delight of his mourning father and mother, Mackay, after taking a good degree at Edinburgh University, trained for the ministry, as his brothers had been in the process of doing, at New College in Edinburgh.

In 1927 he was chosen as the Free Church minister in Torphichen but such was his welcome and the good impression that he made that the Church of Scotland members in the village took the then unusual step of uniting congregations with the Free Church, choosing Mackay as their minister. He became an active member of West Lothian County Council for a quarter of a century and he was never opposed at council elections. I recollect in the middle 1950s somebody at a Labour Party meeting suggesting that the party ought to contest every seat and finding that the then all-powerful party agent Jimmy Boyle slapped them down with the tart comment that the Minister Mackay had to be independent, and anyway he was an asset to the council. The foundation for such a remark was the excellent youth work which he did locally and his speeches in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on behalf of handicapped youth before they became a fashionable cause.

Mackay ran the Sea Scouts on the Edinburgh Glasgow Union canal for 30 years. As one of his early teenage scouts I can say that he was marvellous with all of us, especially the difficult boys and knitted together lads from all kinds of backgrounds. He taught us never to complain. And when any of us got into a scrap and ran to him he would tell us to go back, have another fight, shake hands and come back to him without tears or complaint. A spot of blood around the nose did not matter. It was a useful lesson.

However, if anybody got into real difficulty no man could have been kinder, and he was the founder of the Seagull Trust, which goes from strength to strength doing canal cruises for old people and handicapped young people. It was for this work that he was appointed MBE in 1958.

One of my memories of Mackay will be his standing on Cairnpapple Hill to the north of Bathgate and lecturing groups of visitors on what Historic Scotland now recognise as the most important single Bronze Age site in their possession on the Scottish mainland. He was a distinguished antiquarian.

To widespread surprise and delight in West Lothian, Mackay married for the first time at the age of 59. He was to have an extraordinarily happy marriage with Jean Thom. Sensibly and rightly she insisted on moving from a parish where he had been a popular bachelor minister and they made their home in Aberdeenshire, taking charge of the linked parishes of Prenmay and Leslie. People from the north-east of Scotland assured us that he was as full of good works and as popular as he had been in the central belt. In retirement Mackay did a PhD, taking as his subject the Five Articles of Perth in the context of Scottish church history. His last years were clouded by blindness but he leaves behind a great many boys, including me, who will forever be grateful for the way in which he helped to make men of us.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

HR Manager - HR Generalist / Sole in HR

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - HR Generalis...

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Banking - People Change - Lond...

HR Manager - Milton Keynes - £50,000 + package

£48000 - £50000 per annum + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Shared...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition